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It is exceedingly rare for one person to change the world almost single-handedly, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of those people. Even before her distinguished judicial career, RBG was a trailblazing advocate for women’s rights during the 1970s. She persuaded the Supreme Court that gender discrimination violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, winning five of the six cases she argued there. To lead this historic effort, RBG served as general counsel of the ACLU and as co-founder and the first director of its Women’s Rights Project from 1972 until she became a judge in 1980.

How can we evaluate RBG’s performance in this role? If she had led a for-profit business, we could track its profits. But the test of a nonprofit’s success is not how much money it makes, but how much good it does in the world. To operationalize this somewhat abstract test, I have urged nonprofits to assess their work with three questions, which this Article applies to RBG’s impact litigation:

First, how important was the problem RBG was trying to solve?
Second, how effective was her response?
Third, what were RBG’s comparative advantages in this work?


Judges | Law | Supreme Court of the United States


This article originally appeared in 121:RBG Colum. L. Rev. 633 (2021). Reprinted by permission.